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Money-saving tips you'll never read about in magazines

(I wrote this blog post years ago for the now defunct Renegade Writer blog and am republishing it here for my Become an Idea Machine students and the general reading public. It's a bit outdated; Borders has been out of business for years, but a lot of the tips still work. Enjoy!)

This week I bought three magazines at Borders I may be interested in pitching. Total cost? $14.48. Ouch! To riff off Leona Helmsley, only fools pay newsstand prices, but I really needed these magazines, and I consoled myself that I'd be able to expense them on my taxes.

I don't think I've ever read any money-saving tips in articles about how to save major bucks buying magazines. We talked about it briefly in The Renegade Writer, but since then I've picked up some new tips. Let's break them into three categories: cheap, cheaper, cheapest.


  • Check your Sunday coupon supplements. Occasionally you'll find a cents-off coupon for magazines like Woman's Day and Family Circle. The coupon is usually for a certain issue, but other times, it's good for six weeks or so. If you want to buy a couple issues for market research, it may be worth raiding your mother-in-law's coupon caddy for extra coupons.

  • Use cash register coupons. When I buy magazines at the grocery store, I frequently get a store coupon to use on my next purchase of a similar magazine. For example, I buy Fitness and get a coupon for 50 cents off my next Self.

  • Send the magazine's SASC for a year-long subscription. You might as well get a whole year for what you'd pay for three newsstand issues.

  • A bonus tip for the super thrifty: Check your subscription's start date. I've sent in subscription cards from a January issue, yet the publication will start my subscription effective with the December issue, occasionally November! Call the magazine and ask that they change your start date to the February issue, or even the March issue if you purchased February on the newsstand.


  • Buy subscriptions off eBay. I've found some fantastic deals here. I got three years each of Parents, Parenting, and Child for $9.78. A two-year sub to Reader's Digest for $9.98. Yankee for $8.00. You get the idea. I buy only from sellers/brokers who have excellent ratings, and I haven't run into problems yet.

  • Mine your professional affiliations. I'm not a member of ASJA, but I hear they have an excellent magazine subscription program for member/writers. I get subscription offers from magazines because I teach at a local community college: for example, I just got an offer for a year's worth of The New Yorker for $20 (or something like that).

  • Use your frequent flier miles or rewards points to buy magazines. I've used American Express rewards points to buy dozens of magazines, and when some of my United Mileage Plus miles were about to expire, I traded them for subscriptions.

  • Do a Google search on "cheap magazine subscriptions" -- you'll get thousands of hits. I've done this, ordered magazines, and knock wood, never have gotten ripped off.


  • Read magazines online. More and more magazines are putting their content on the web. If you're simply reading these publications to figure out what kind of stories they like, or you're already familiar with their demographics (I like to look at the actual magazine when I'm doing market research), web-based reading costs you nothing but bandwidth.

  • Steal them. Well, let me clarify that. Steal them from doctor's offices, your mother's coffee table, your brother's lad mag stash ... that sort of stealing. Occasionally I'll see a magazine that I've never seen at the newsstand, so I turn on the charm and ask if I can borrow it. I've never been turned down.

  • Read them at the library. This is what Linda does. My local library has subscriptions to at least 200 magazines. They don't even charge late fees if I'm late returning them!

  • Log into a database. Back to the library -- in Massachusetts, any resident with a library card has access to some amazing magazine databases, including Gale Group, InfoTrak, the Boston Globe, the New York Times, and more. While I still subscribe to dozens of magazines, I've been able to dump hundreds of back issues from my library. If I want to find out what Parenting has done on potty training recently, I can search InfoTrak.

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